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Lakers vs. Rockets Game 1 Preview: How big of a role will Rajon Rondo play?

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Rajon Rondo looking set to play his first game of the NBA playoffs is just one Lakers storyline we’ll be watching for.

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Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers - Game One Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

I already did a huge Lakers vs. Rockets, NBA playoffs second-round series preview, so in lieu of a traditional game preview, here are a few quick things to watch for in this one.

Will Rajon Rondo return, and how many minutes will he get?

Rondo has missed almost the entire bubble for the Lakers after fracturing his thumb during their second practice in Orlando, necessitating surgery. He was cleared to return in the first round against the Trail Blazers, only to suffer back spasms and end up missing the rest of that series as well.

Now, in Game 1 against Houston, he’s back.

How many minutes will he suit up for? That’s anyone’s guess, but it seems likely that he’ll get at least some (or all) of the playing time currently going to J.R. Smith, who played 13.2 minutes per game in the first round. It remains to be seen if he can actually help in that time, but the Lakers do need some ballhandling, and given how often they’ll likely try to get Anthony Davis the ball on the move out of pick-and-roll sets because of how frequently and easily the Rockets switch, this might be a series where he could have some utility.

Can the Lakers shake the rust off?

The Lakers will have had almost an entire week off when they tip off Game 1 on Friday night, while the Rockets will have just played a Game 7 two nights before. While that extra rest might appear to be an advantage in some ways, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel says that for Game 1, the current situation is probably more beneficial to the Rockets.

“I actually think that teams that play a Game 7, in the next series going against a team that has been off has the advantage. Because your senses are sharper, you’re playing in that environment where every possession matters,” Vogel said after practice on Thursday. “That’s a better way to prepare for a series than a week of practices.”

A few other notes and updates

  • James and Davis are both also listed as “probable” for the game, but they were listed as that for the entire first round and played anyway, so expect the same thing on Friday.

The Lakers and Rockets will tip off Game 1 at 6:00 p.m. PT on ESPN. You can check out the rest of the series schedule here, and sign up for fuboTV to watch it here.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.